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Mayor of London expands free school meals to every primary schoolchild

20th Feb 2023 - 08:45
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced a £130m emergency scheme to help families with the rising cost of living by ensuring that every primary schoolchild in London will receive free school meals in the next academic year.

The ‘unprecedented move’ will help around 270,000 primary schoolchildren and save families around £440 per child across the year. Khan, who received free school meals as a child, has repeatedly called on the Government to make meals available to all.

Research has shown that hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren live in poverty but do not receive free school meals due to the Government’s restrictive eligibility criteria. Currently a household on universal credit must earn less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including benefits), regardless of the number of children in the family, to be eligible.

Khan made the announcement of the emergency funding as he visited his old school Fircroft Primary in Tooting. He commented: “The cost of living crisis means families and children across our city are in desperate need of additional support. I have repeatedly urged the Government to provide free school meals to help already stretched families, but they have simply failed to act.

“This is why I’m stepping forward with an emergency £130m scheme that will ensure every single primary pupil in the capital receives free school meals. This will save families hundreds of pounds over the year, ensuring parents aren’t worrying about how they’re going to feed their children. It will also guarantee every primary school student a healthy, nutritious meal – meaning they don’t go hungry in the classroom and can better concentrate on their studies. 

“I know from personal experience that free school meals are a lifeline. My siblings and I depended on them to eat while at school and my parents relied on them to give our family a little extra breathing room financially. The difference they can make to children who are at risk of going hungry – and to families who are struggling to make ends meet – is truly game-changing.

“Supporting London’s families through this cost of living crisis and helping ensure our children are properly fed is vital as we continue striving to build a better London for everyone – a city that is fairer, safer and more prosperous for all.”

The meals are also good for children’s health as they may be the child’s main source of hot, nutritious food. By ensuring they don’t go hungry, children are better equipped to learn.

Brad Pearce, chair of LACA, said: “We are delighted that all primary schoolchildren in London will receive a free hot, healthy and nutritious school meal for the next year. Too many children, both in London and throughout the country, are falling through the cracks. The announcement will go a long way, and we hope the Government urgently follows the actions taken by the Mayor of London.”

Written by
Edward Waddell